The university of Oulu has recently published its strategy for 2016–2020 entitled “Science with Arctic Attitude”. Of course, it is a very broad plan of actions or rather a concept to refer to when formulating a coherent mission-on-demand.
However, it does show the intent of the university management to play the North card and thus give it a head start in the competition for the international significance. The choice of such a strategy is pretty obvious, perhaps even too obvious. But is the “Arctic attitude” a sufficient answer to the challenges the university has to meet in 2016–2020?
Let’s look at the numbers. According to Times Higher Education World University Ranking, University of Oulu is somewhat 351–400 in the global ranking with the following amount of points: Teaching 23.1, International Outlook 56.9, Industry Income 30.9, Research 15.9, Citations 62.3. The percentage of International students is 6%.
By comparison, University of Helsinki ranks 76th with Teaching 48.4, Research 60.4, Industry Income 31.6, Citations 82.1. The industry income seems to be a weak spot for Finnish universities, which they aim to solve with promoting entrepreneurship. Teaching, research and international students are other areas that need to be acted upon.
For example, University of Oxford occupies the 2nd place in the ranking with Teaching 86.5, Industry Income 73.1, Research 98.9 and International students 34%. Its strategic vision includes developing the “capacity to generate and share knowledge in the UK, Europe, and globally, ensuring significant contributions to public policy-making and economic growth.”
Finnish policy-makers and the role of the university in Finland’s economic growth did not get any significance presence in the strategy. The government involvement was only illustrated from the funding and regulations point of view, no backward linkage was mentioned.
With high tuition fees, narrow focus, scanty internationalization, small-scale movement of ideas and people even on the national level the University of Oulu risks not to make much of improvement by the end of 2020.
However, the general line of thinking of the university management looks convincing and in tune with the times. It is possible that the real actions will take the right track as in the end a concept is just a concept.